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How long to spend at these sites in St. Petersburg

We're going to be in St. Petersburg for two days as part of a Baltic Cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines. We have engaged a private guide/translator through our Tour Operator with early entry and "skip the line" arrangements; will not be using any of the Cruise-sponsored excursions.

We're trying to figure out how long we should plan to spend at the following locations to get at least a decent exposure to the essence of each site:

Basic Plan as of now:
Day 1:
1. St. Isaacs Cathedral: we want to start the first day here to get the best bird's eye view of SPB,
2.Spilled Blood Cathedral,
3. Peter/Paul Fortress; especially interested in the Museum Space Exploration and Rocket Technology, as well as the Bell Tower,
4. Cruise with the highlights of the city (research shows most of the cruises are about one hour; we know to be sure and get one in English).

Day 2:
1. General Staff Building, Fourth Floor with the French Masters. We feel we need at least 3 - 4 hours,
2. Visit one of the Hermitage Buildings; right now we're looking first at the Winter Palace.

We know everyone has their own ideas of how long to spend, so we're looking forward to hearing from folks with recent, first-hand experiences. Thanks!

Posted by
7387 posts

We spent 5 days in the Hermitage over two different visits to SP. We spent one full afternoon in the General Staff building; if you only want to see that on one day, it is just 400 Rubles. The Winter Palace with the main collections of the Hermitage is worth a full day or two as well. don't miss the room that memorializes the generals of the Napoleonic wars and the collection of Rembrandts. The Hermitage has arguably Rembrandt's greatest work. The Sacrifice of Isaac (they call it Sacrifice or Abraham, but it is Isaac with the knife at his throat) and the Prodigal Son are just absolutely stunning works.

You can buy a ticket for the whole thing at the General Staff Building where lines are short or at a machine in the courtyard of the Winter Palace.

Posted by
3947 posts

Your first day is a bit to crammed for me . With an early start you could manage the two cathedrals , but the cathedral at Peter and Paul , and the prison ( Trubetskoy ) need more time than you might imagine . You might manage the cruise late in the day , but by that time you will be fried , anything else will be pushing it . Your plan for day two is fine - between the General Staff and highlights in the Hermitage , that would do .

Posted by
325 posts

Just was there with NCL and used a Russian tour operator: TJ Travel.

Our tour was a 2-day excursion with the addition of the Faberge museum.

I think what you have scheduled sounds perfect.

When you get off the ship, be prepared for long lines to get thru the passport control.

Try to go to the "booth" furthest from the ship. We stood in line for about 25 minutes. Less crowded. When you come back to the ship, its very quick to go thru the passport control. Then next day, it will be very fast going out. Coming back on the final day was more difficult. It seems that all thr NCL tours all came back at the same time as did the private Russian companies. Very long line to get thru passport control. We waied about 35 minutes in line.

You'll love it in St. Petersburg.
Enjoy your adventure!

Posted by
34 posts

Thanks very much for the great info.

We'd like to spend as much time at the General Staff Building (GSB) visiting the exhibits on the Fourth and Third Floors. (Monet, Manet, Renoir, Rodin, Van Gogh, etc.).

We've engaged a private tour operator who indicated (not very clearly) that we can't spend that much time at the General Staff Building due to tour regulations. That's why we added the Winter Palace, however we're not interested in the Winter Palace. I don't see why we can't just buy our tickets and spend the day at the GSB.

Did you spend much time at the General Staff Building? Did you pick up on any time limits?

Thanks for your insights!

Posted by
1888 posts

We were there in March and one ticket was good for both the Winter Palace and the GSB. We started at the palace and then just walked across the square to the GSB. We needed the go to the ticket booth to exchange our admission ticket. We spent several hours at the GSB. The Winter Palace is something to see, even if you just see the stair well and throne room.

Posted by
567 posts

You are better people than I am if you can spend the entire day in a Museum and not succumb to "Nice picture" syndrome.
We did a guided tour of the hermitage (Winter palace and other buildings) that was about 1 1/2 hr long and then spent about 1 hr more looking at some art I wanted to see. Had lunch there. Then walked over to the Church of the Spilled Blood area. You need a ticket to enter the Church- it was about a 30 min wait for the ticket.
The next day I purchased a ticket for the general Staff Building and spent about 2 hours there- mainly on the 4th floor - which I felt was more than enough time to first walk thru the fourth floor enjoying the art and the way the museum has it ordered and then taking a second pass to linger . IMHO , you could then go to the Peter and Paul Fortress. I did not spend as much time there. and didnt spend any time at the Space Exploration.
Have fun

Posted by
7387 posts

I agree with Diane that several visits are better than one very long one. that is why we spent 5 days plus the horrible tour ship tour; we spent about 4 hours at a time with a break for lunch (we brought sandwiches from a fabulous bakery near or apartment; the food sold at the Hermitage is lousy so we just bought drinks) It makes no sense that you can't spend as much time as you want in the GSB because you are on a tour unless the tour itself is superficial and that is what they do. Note however that cruise ship tickets are cut rate (to the operator not to you of course) and our group discovered during our free time at the Hermitage that the tickets would not admit you to the GSB at all. The tickets are cheap -- it was only 400 Rubles for the GSB -- and well worth an afternoon although we enjoyed the Winter Palace collections more. (I'd rather look at Rembrandts than Gauguins)

Posted by
153 posts

We just got back from a Princess cruise of the Baltic and had a wonderful time. I think it would be hard for you to calculate times as it is extremely crowded in the Summer at the locations you mention In St. Pete. Your tour operator should provide good advice as they know the conditions. We used an Independent Russian tour operator, TJ Travel, that did an excellent job on our 2 full days tour. They really know how to operate in Russian conditions. I can't say enough good things about our Our guide and driver and tour company. I talked to some people that used TJ for a private tour and they were pleased with the result noting how flexible the had been. Princess angered many people by telling them that Princess and independen tours had to go to muster places to meet up and go off the ship in groups.. The reaslut was extremely long lines leaving the ship and into Russian immigration. The. Delays were up to 2 hours and some Passingers missed tours. TJ had e-mailed travel documents they said to present to immigration and told us the ship could not prevent us from leaving in favor of ship based tours. We did not do as the ship "suggested" and just Left the ship, as usual in other ports, a little earlier than the time to meet our tour and had only 4 people in front of us in Russian immigration while at the same time many passengers were mustering in wait areas on the ship. Our TJ documents for being with a group was sufficient to get into St Pete. Once outside the terminal, we met or TJ Travel reps. We waited in the comfort of a 16 passenger Mercedes van able to go back into the terminal to shop or go to the toilets while fellow passengers were trapped in long lines without toilets. The next day, Princess did not tell passengers with tours independent of Princess to leave as a group.